Zombie DDT ban myth lurches on

Bill Brown, who was a District Commissioner in pre-independence Papua New Guinea reviews a memoir from Michael O’Connor who was a patrol officer then:

O’Connor rails against the “clever people … those academics, bureaucrats and others drawn from their experience of a sophisticated metropolitan societyâ€.

The clever people “decided that DDT should not be used because birds might die. So the program was abandoned, malaria returned in full force and people died as a result … the malarial control program that involved spraying every hut and house with DDTâ€.

In fact, the program morphed through many stages, brought about as adjustments were made to the WHO’s worldwide eradication program, in the early days with considerable input from the Maprik based malariologist, Dr Wally Peters.

The first insecticide used, dieldrin, had a short residual effect and it was replaced by DDT in 1959. The people were the strongest opponents of DDT, sometimes resorting to threats of violence to prevent their villages being sprayed.

In 1969 the program was modified, and the spray changed to a mix of malathion and DDT, but overall DDT was sprayed for some 30 years.

Comments

  1. #1 matt
    March 22, 2010

    DDT is still used today. I’ve heard many times the argument that millions (up to 500 million) people died because DDT was banned based on “bad science”. These figures are complete bollocks of course, with at most one million people dying of malaria each year.

    From my understanding DDT was banned from agricultural use. This was because mosquitoes rapidly build resistance to DDT rendering it useless as a control agent.

    The opposite argument to the one often expressed has merit. Banning DDT (from agricultural use) saved many lives.

  2. #2 Deadly Rebel
    March 22, 2010

    I trouble with fire ants. Yet there is not a poison on the market that can kill the little bastards. DDT was my best hope. Yet the evil asses at the EPA will not allow anything to come between them and their God – the environment.

    So I have made it a point that every time I know of a environmentalist, i filled their yard full of fire ants from my yard. if they love them so much they can have them.

    To hell with the EPA, I have effectively created my own insect killer – a special mixture of Chlorox, Diesel fuel, chracoal lighter fluid, alcohol, and just a hint (2 quarts)of malathon (the whole bottle – concentrate, I still have stockpiles). This mixture is gaurunteed to kill an insect, nit just make it move. When all else fails, just pour gasoline on the ant bed. It’s still better than store bought watered down poison that doesn’t work.

    If I knew of a old farmer that stillhad some 355 cotton poison that contained DDT I would sure as hell offer him good money for it and get rid of these pests. Usually when I used to mix Malathon, if it said 2 teaspoons per gallon, i usually mixed 20 tablespoons to make sure I got it good and strong to KILL, not mame the insects.

  3. #3 Deadly Rebel
    March 22, 2010

    The problem with environMENTALists is that they never finish the job. Mosquitos would not grow resistant to DDT if you would have wiped them off the face of the earth to begin with – make them extinct – same with fire ants.

    The mistake that is made is that the bugs are sprayed but not wiped out entirely which wastes money. Either kill them all or ignore the problem. Stop wasting money.

    If I could I would wipe fire ants into extiction. Same with mosquitos. If you kill a trillion trillion a day, soon they will die out.

  4. #4 Lotharsson
    March 22, 2010

    If you kill a trillion trillion a day, soon they will die out.

    And if I win Lotto every day, soon I’ll be rich.

  5. #5 another dirty rebel
    March 22, 2010

    I trouble with fire ants. I have trouble with cain bettles, I have trouble with evolutionary adaptioation, I have troube with ecosystem collapse and biodiversity loss.

    I like to scape goat one group in a long chain of events cos it suits my small frame of reference.

    It’s the evironmentalist fault that the WTO (and Howard) pushed to and reduce quarantine barriers. Because free markets are only level free when they favour the golden rulers.

    Its the Environmentalists fault that prduction pressures are [degrading the land](http://www.isric.org/ISRIC/webdocs/docs/report%202008_01_glada%20international_rev_aug%202008.pdf).

  6. #6 trrll
    March 22, 2010

    Mosquitos would not grow resistant to DDT if you would have wiped them off the face of the earth to begin with – make them extinct – same with fire ants

    It is a common misconception that poisons such as DDT “cause” resistance. In reality, the resistant mosquitoes were already there before DDT even existed–mosquitoes with random mutations in their sodium channels that prevented DDT from binding. You can’t kill them with any amount of DDT because they are inherently resistant–it just isn’t toxic to them. They were rare only because they had no particular advantage over all of the other mosquitoes. If you wipe out all of the other mosquitoes with DDT, then the DDT resistant ones have an advantage, and multiply. Pretty soon, all of the mosquitoes are descendants of those that were randomly resistant to DDT.

  7. #7 jakerman
    March 22, 2010

    >*Mosquitos would not grow resistant to DDT if you would have wiped them off the face of the earth to begin with – make them extinct – same with fire ants.*

    How did you imagine you would you achieve this? And if it were achieveable what else would follow with the process required to acheive it?

  8. #8 Ezzthetic
    March 23, 2010

    if you would have wiped them off the face of the earth to begin with – make them extinct

    Surely a more reasonable policy would be to invade their nests, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

  9. #9 Phila
    March 23, 2010

    We should also kill all flu germs (make them extinct) with flamethrowers, instead of letting ALARMists use them as an excuse for injecting us with vaccines that everyone knows don’t work.

    I have many ideas for fixing things (problems), it is just a question of putting me in charge and then get out of the way or else!

  10. #10 alex
    March 23, 2010

    I call Poe!

  11. #11 jakerman
    March 23, 2010

    >*You can’t kill them with any amount of DDT because they are inherently resistant–it just isn’t toxic to them.*

    Except if you use enough to bury them and kill the ecosystem on which they exist!

  12. #12 Fran Barlow
    March 23, 2010

    And of course, if you set about wiping out everything necessary to life on Earth then you could completely solve the mosquito problem once and for all.

    That may be a little extreme of course, but then, if you get rid of all the humans, then you’re only left with critters who aren’t that bothered by mosquitoes, so that also solves the problem.

    Oops … you’re not left with anything because you’re not left …

    Gosh … all this re-engineering the ecosystem is damnably tricky, isn’t it?

  13. #13 John Quiggin
    March 23, 2010

    Is this the Michael O’Connor who is online editor of Quadrant?

  14. #14 MikeH
    March 23, 2010

    @2
    I assume you mean [malathion](http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/health/mosquitoes/malathion4mosquitoes.htm).

    malathion like other organophosphates, can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness,
    or confusion.

    You appear to have had an extreme reaction.

  15. #15 jakerman
    March 23, 2010

    Lotharsson go get Z, I think MikeH is a new condender to take home the Internetz once Z’s crowning period is ended.

  16. #16 Jeremy C
    March 23, 2010

    Can anybody explain to me just why DDT is such a ‘touchstone’ for right wing nuts.

  17. #17 John
    March 23, 2010

    Because to them it’s proof that the envirnomentalists care more about the environment than they do about people.

  18. #18 Lotharsson
    March 23, 2010

    jakerman, I’ll second that :-)

  19. #19 alex
    March 23, 2010

    Can anybody explain to me just why DDT is such a ‘touchstone’ for right wing nuts

    Wingnuts incorrectly state that Rachel Carson – often referred to as the mother of the modern environmental movement – called for a ban on DDT, therefore causing the death of millions. They figure if they can then draw the conclusion that Environmentalists = mass murderers/holocaust perpetrators etc….

    Of course as is the case with virtually very right-wing talking point, it’s a lie.

  20. #20 Tim Lambert
    March 23, 2010

    I think it’s a different person to the Quadrantista.

  21. #21 Jeremy C
    March 23, 2010

    “They figure if they can then draw the conclusion that Environmentalists = mass murderers/holocaust perpetrators etc….

    Of course as is the case with virtually very right-wing talking point, it’s a lie.”

    This might be a bit off-topic but its perhaps similar to the approach on DDT. I remember last year how the r-w-ns’ leapt with glee onto the the tragedy of the fires in Victoria using the deaths of all those people as an opportunity to push their outlook blaming environmentalists. They came out in force particularly on Mahorasy.com. It was pretty sickening and more evidence that despite the words they use the r-w-ns’ have no concern for people despite protesting that supposed DDT bans supposedly killed millions of supposed people.

  22. #22 jakerman
    March 23, 2010

    The obvious solution to bush fires is move the forest (to a pulp mill) rather than move the people.

  23. #23 Mulga Mumblebrain
    March 23, 2010

    I’m afraid that Rightwing nutjobs,or Rightwing authoritarian personality types or robopaths or whatever you wish to call them are basically psychopaths. They display so many of that type’s known features eg lack of empathy,indifference to the fate of others, gigantic egomania, conscienceless recourse to lying, preference for violent solutions to conflict etc that I think the relationship is beyond doubt. They simply lack those features seen in some psychopaths of charm and high intelligence, being, rather, endowed with charmless lack of grace, Dunning-Kruger level imbecility, but consequent risible belief in their own omniscience and intellectual superiority and dumbfounding ignorance. They despise environmentalists because they have been trained by the Rightwing media to do so, and because, on some deep level, possibly intuitive, they realise that Greenies are morally and intellectually their superiors, and that affronts their egomania. One of the fatal flaws of our society that will ensure its destruction is that even the vilest, most moronic, most vicious individuals all have a say, and as the Rightwing media and politicians are fomenting the denialist rabble into a more and more hysterical lynch-mob mood, and as violence is the Right’s preferred tool by which to get their way, things can only get more dangerous and violently antagonistic. Prospects for coherent, co-operative and determined action to ameliorate climate change are, at the moment and for the foreseeable future, very, very, dim indeed.

  24. #24 Sou
    March 23, 2010

    There’s still land in this part of Victoria where you can’t graze cattle (or aren’t supposed to) or grow food crops because of residual DDT / Dieldrin contamination – dating back to the crop dusting of the 1960s and 70s. (My first helicopter ride was in a cropduster!) I believe its use was banned here in 1981. I remember dead fish floating in the local river from over-spraying.

    A couple of years ago my neighbour had cattle rejected because of contamination from spraying decades ago (before he owned the land) – and he only grows out young steers.

    Some people don’t mind using it, going by the comments above, but it isn’t all that good for you and tends to accumulate in fat. (I suspect it’s wise to not lose weight too quickly if you grew up where DDT or Dieldrin were sprayed.)

  25. #25 Muscle Boost
    March 23, 2010

    This might be a bit off-topic but its perhaps similar to the approach on DDT. I remember last year how the r-w-ns’ leapt with glee onto the the tragedy of the fires in Victoria using the deaths of all those people as an opportunity to push their outlook blaming environmentalists. They came out in force particularly on Mahorasy.com. It was pretty sickening and more evidence that despite the words they use the r-w-ns’ have no concern for people despite protesting that supposed DDT bans supposedly killed millions of supposed people.

  26. #26 Alex
    March 23, 2010

    Jeremy C. The most vile post Vic bushfie Vitriol came via far right-wing nut, Miranda Devine. She called for environmentalists to be publically executed. It was hate speach pure and simple.

  27. #27 ScaredAmoeba
    March 23, 2010

    Re: 16, 17
    Why do environmentalists care about the environment?

    Because:

    a) Humans can’t survive without the environment.

    b) The environment is the most beautiful thing there is.

    Two more points:

    c) Can humans survive without wingnuts? Undoubtedly, in-fact humanty would be vastly better-off without them. Fire ants are infinitely more desirable than wingnuts. Wingnuts are the parasites of society.

    d) Can wingnuts survive without false truths; quote-mining; pseudo-science; industry kick-backs; money; ignorance and lies? No.

  28. #28 the bug guy
    March 23, 2010

    It’s funny how some people seem to think that DDT is a super pesticide that will work when everything else fails. In reference to the many materials developed since, DDT has fairly average efficacy. The current WHOPES recommendation for Interior Repellent Spray use is for 1-2 grams active ingredient per square meter. That’s a pretty high dose.

    As I remember, DDT-resistant Salt Marsh mosquitoes (Aedes taeniorhynchus) were first reported in Florida around 1948. That was only five years after the first tests of DDT for mosquito control were started in the state.

  29. #29 Alex Besogonov
    March 23, 2010

    “And of course, if you set about wiping out everything necessary to life on Earth then you could completely solve the mosquito problem once and for all. ”

    Ahh… There’s no problem a good old-fashioned thermonuclear war won’t solve.

  30. #30 David Marjanović
    March 23, 2010

    How can a myth rule policy? If we know it is bad science, then why not correct the problem and dispell the myth.

    That requires the other side to listen.

  31. #31 Sou
    March 23, 2010

    Isn’t anyone going to stick up for the mossie? The tadpoles love the larvae and often rely on them for food. And fish find the larvae a treat as well. Bats and spiders like to eat the adult mossies. Maybe it’s time to start a Save the Mosquito campaign :D

  32. #32 pough
    March 23, 2010

    I trouble with fire ants.

    I just wanted to quote that because it’s so awesome.

  33. #33 Jim Eager
    March 23, 2010

    It’s good that folks like Deadly Rebel drop by from time to time to remind us of the blinding rock-hard willful ignorance that we are up against.

  34. #34 Lars Karlsson
    March 23, 2010

    Yes! Whenever bicycles are broken, or menaced by Fire Ants, Deadly Rebel Man is ready!
    Ready to smash the fire ants, wipe them up, and shove them off the face of the earth… Mash that dirty red scum, kick ‘em in the mandibles where it hurts. Kill! Kill! Kill! The filthy bastard anties, I hate ‘em! I hate ‘em! Aaargh! Aaargh!

    (The original)

  35. #35 Ray C.
    March 23, 2010

    @#2, #3, #5: [wharrgarbl]

    “No, I’m a rebel. You’re an idiot.” –Spike

  36. #36 Andrew
    March 23, 2010

    Actually [Ray C](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/zombie_ddt_ban_myth_lurches_on.php#comment-2372094) #5 is a pretty funny reply I thought…and [pough](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/zombie_ddt_ban_myth_lurches_on.php#comment-2371607) can I say it too
    >I trouble with fire ants.

    Its my new catchcry…

  37. #37 climateprogressive
    March 23, 2010

    Some scary people on here tonight – especially at the top of the thread.

    I think #23 has it nailed.

    Is it honestly possible to be so utterly, weapons-grade thick that you think the environment’s just somewhere you visit on days off, vacation etc?

    Apparently so.

  38. #38 Eli Rabett
    March 23, 2010

    Cripes Tim, Deltoid is like flypaper to wackjobs. Do you sock puppet on your days off?

  39. #39 Lotharsson
    March 23, 2010

    Eli, Deltoid has nothing on (say) climate change threads at The Drum (at the website of the Australian national broadcaster). Check this one out – nearly 2000 comments and still going after almost two weeks. Teh concentrated Stupid is almost at critical mass.

    I spent some time in the first few days of the thread debunking some of the crap, but the Goldfish Trolls appear to be motivated to keep posting the same thing in slightly different form over and over again.

  40. #40 America saver
    March 23, 2010
  41. #41 America Saver
    March 23, 2010
  42. #43 Vince Whirlwind
    March 23, 2010

    That’s beyond sociopathic and verging on the psychotic.

    WTF is wrong with these demented loons?

  43. #44 John
    March 23, 2010

    America Saver, is that bumper sticker peer reviewed?

  44. #45 Lotharsson
    March 23, 2010

    WTF is wrong with these demented loons?

    Probably similar things to those that lead many of them to denounce the US healthcare bill as “socialist” without knowing what a socialist healthcare plan would look like, to partake in “Tea Party” rallies to protest the high tax rates and egregious tax increases they believe Obama foisted on the US, and to think Sarah Palin would be eminently qualified to (say) deal with foreign – or domestic – policy if McCain became incapacitated.

    There are a hundred other symptoms if you’re far more interested in US politics than the average Aussie…

  45. #46 Philip Machanick
    March 24, 2010

    Victorian bush fires: some rwwn (right wing wing nut) in the wake of this claimed that the Greens who run the Blue Mountains council in NSW had legislated against fire breaks, resulting in a destructive fire. The Greens have never in fact run the council in question, having been locked out by a coalition of Libs and ALP whenever they looked threatening. Lies, damn lies and rwwns.

    #445 Lotharsson: on US healthcare and “socialism”: guess which country has the higher per capita public health spending, US or Canada? The answer may surprise you. The US has the 3rd highest per capita public health spending after Luxembourg and Norway ([2007 figures from OECD](http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/46/33/38979719.pdf)); they overtook Iceland, which used to be higher in 2006. Canada in 2007 spent $3895 per capita total, 60% of which was public funding, vs. the US $7290 per capita, of which 45% was public funding. As a %, the US spends a lot less on public health care than most other developed countries, but in absolute terms, it spends more (US: 45%x$7290=$3281; Canada: 70%x$3895=$2727.

  46. #47 Lotharsson
    March 24, 2010

    Philip, no the answer doesn’t surprise me (for one thing, public spending on the last resort for the uninsured – the emergency room – doesn’t come cheap, even if you make them wait for 12+ hours because they’re not an emergency). The whole “best healthcare system in the world” claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny once you start comparing systemic outcomes with costs.

    But then I know more about it than most Aussies – and more than a lot of Americans, it seems – because of my fascination with the astonishing world of US politics due to living there for several years and working with American colleagues. The healthcare “debate” is one of the poster children for how tenuously attached to reality most of the factual claims trumpeted in much of the US political media seem to be (and as far as I can tell Republicans seem to suffer from this a lot more than Democrats).

    If Aussies want to delve into some of those political dynamics in the US, this open letter to conservatives (containing a large set of referenced points starting at the second section) might give you some idea of what’s being fed to the Republican party faithful on a regular basis.

  47. #48 Lars Karlsson
    March 24, 2010

    #42 – What about some “funny” T-shirts/stickers/cups etc about [waterboarding](http://shop.cafepress.co.uk/waterboarding)?

  48. #49 Lotharsson
    March 24, 2010

    Another possible answer to

    WTF is wrong with these demented loons?

    Including:

    Forget about the tragedy of the commons, this is the abject and gleeful refutation of common sense.

    I certainly sense a non-trivial amount of that sentiment in my visits to US political blogs.

  49. #50 MikeH
    March 24, 2010

    Lotharsson @ 39
    I wonder how many of the posters at the Drum are superannuated fossils from the Lavoisier Group with plenty of time on their hands. They are certainly well organised and well acquainted with all the denier talking points.

    I managed to post a few comments when Clive Hamilton’s articles were first published but like most people who work or study I simply do not have the time to do it consistently.

    I do not believe that these wingnuts are representative of the general public. I know people who only vaguely understand climate change issues and might be mildly skeptical but it is rare to meet a full on denier.

    I suspect that by flooding the forums with their shite they end up spending most of their time talking to themselves.

    Bolt claims to have millions of hits on his blog but like Pavlov’s dog, it is more likely that all the hits come from the same group of anti-social wackers looking for affirmation for their borderline sociopathic ideas.

  50. #51 Lotharsson
    March 24, 2010

    MikeH, you may be right.

    The sheer (“goldfish troll”) repetition is awesome to watch sometimes – especially folks like Graeme Bird who will flat out deny that someone just posted evidence in response to his perennial call for it, and repeat essentially the same comments over and over again.

  51. #52 Ed Darrell
    March 24, 2010

    The problem with environMENTALists is that they never finish the job. Mosquitos would not grow resistant to DDT if you would have wiped them off the face of the earth to begin with – make them extinct – same with fire ants.

    The trouble with Brown Earthers, Poisoned Earthers and anti-mentalists is that they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

    No mosquito or malaria expert ever hoped to wipe out mosquitoes. That was well known to be impossible. WHO, working with master malaria fighter Fred Soper, hoped to simply knock down the mosquito population for six months or a year, during which time they hoped to cure malaria in the humans in that area.

    Then, when the mosquitoes came roaring back as they were sure to do, there would be no pool of infection in the humans from which the mosquitoes could infect themselves.

    Wiping out malaria requires that we cure it in humans. DDT is completely irrelevant to that process, except in this case where it could have been used to slow the spread of the disease, for a brief period.

    The problem in 1965 in Subsaharan Africa was that too many nations simply were incompetent in delivering the medical care necessary to cure malaria in humans.

    That’s still true.

    However, malaria death rates today are about half what they were when DDT use was at its peak.

    Were DDT the great weapon against malaria the Brown Earthers claim it was, how could it be that death rates are falling still?

  52. #53 TrueSceptic
    March 24, 2010

    16 Jeremy C,

    DDT > Rachel Carson > ‘Silent Spring’ > “the birth of the environmental/ecology movement” > corporate practice and profits under threat.

  53. #54 bug
    March 26, 2010

    cripes. This Fire ant BS makes my head explode.

    Sigh.

  54. #55 Timothy Horrigan
    March 27, 2010

    I agree with those who scoff at the suggestion that we eliminate mosquitos. Mosquitos are hardy creatures who have existed for millennia. They have survived catastrophes which are infinitely worse than anything we could subject them too.

    Even if we could kill them all off, all sorts of other creatures rely on mosquitos as a food source, or for other purposes.

    My favorite tactic for dealing with fire ants, BTW, is to brandish a firearm at them. 98% of the ants will flee.

  55. #56 Mike
    April 20, 2010

    Deadly Rebel, I like the way you think. Just don’t drop a match near those anthills. As for mosquitoes, I think eradication is better than repellent. I’ve been reading up on mosquito traps, and based on independent testing, Mosquito Magnets seem to be the most effective.
    Here’s an example of one:
    http://www.mosquitomagnet.com/store/mosquito-magnet-traps/mm3300

  56. #57 Hank Roberts
    February 19, 2011

    aieee …
    http://www.scrippsnews.com/content/ambrose-dont-overreact-so-called-global-warming
    Thu, 02/17/2011 – 16:23

    By JAY AMBROSE, Scripps Howard News Service

    “… The main thing is to avoid what happened with DDT. Because of a ban to protect wildlife from the pesticide in this country, it became more scarce, various kinds of pressures helped restrict its use anywhere, and a consequence was its being employed sparingly if at all in wildlife-safe, indoor spraying to combat malaria in Africa. Though not always, DDT can be enormously effective in stopping the disease while posing minimal if any threats to humans. The estimate is that millions of African children died because of misplaced values and overreactions.

    That’s worse than heart-breaking.

    (Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)”

  57. #58 adelady
    February 19, 2011

    Sigh